The Latin America Seeds Collective has just released a 40-minute film (‘Seeds: Common or Corporate Property?) which documents the resistance of peasant farmers to the corporate takeover of their agriculture.
The film describes how seed has been central to agriculture for 10,000 years. Farmers have been saving, exchanging and developing seeds for millennia. Seeds have been handed down from generation to generation. Peasant farmers have been the custodians of seeds, knowledge and land.
This is how it was until the 20th century when corporations took these seeds, hybridised them, genetically modified them, patented them and fashioned them to serve the needs of industrial agriculture with its monocultures and chemical inputs.
To serve the interests of these corporations by marginalising indigenous agriculture, a number of treaties and agreement over breeders’ rights and intellectual property have been enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Since this began, thousands of seed varieties have been lost and corporate seeds have increasingly dominated agriculture.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that globally just 20 cultivated plant species account for 90 percent of all the plant-based food consumed by humans. This narrow genetic base of the global food system has put food security at serious risk.
To move farmers away from using native seeds and to get them to plant corporate seeds, the film describes how seed ‘certification’ rules and laws are brought into being by national governments on behalf of commercial seed giants like Monsanto. In Costa Rica, the battle to overturn restrictions on seeds was lost with the signing of a free trade agreement with the US, although this flouted the country’s seed biodiversity laws.
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